So much for freshman jitters.
After the UCSB men’s basketball team squandered an eight-point, second-half lead at San Diego State, freshman guard Alex Harris put the Gauchos on his back in overtime, scoring eight of the Gauchos’ 17 overtime points to give Santa Barbara an 80-72 win. Harris hit two consecutive three-pointers in the extra frame after senior guard Chrismen Oliver’s three-pointer to solidify UCSB’s first win of the season.
“After I made the first one, my confidence just went way up,” Harris said.
Harris, starting in place of injured guard Cecil Brown, finished the night with 15 points in his first official game in a Gaucho uniform.
“He’s very impressive,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “He has great confidence. He makes mistakes like all young players, but he’s not afraid of pressure situations. He grew up playing in pressure situations.”
With three other Gauchos sidelined from injury and 6’5″ guard Josh Davis starting at the power forward slot, Williams and company knew they would have a tough time stopping the San Diego State front line, and they did. San Diego sophomore forward Marcus Slaughter scored a game-high 28 points, including the Aztecs’ final 16 points of regulation.
Davis was just as tough for the Aztecs to match up with as Slaughter was for the Gauchos. Davis went for a team-high 18 points and scorched SDSU from the outside, going 4-5 from behind the arc.
In overtime, however, it was all Harris. With Davis, Oliver and senior forward Casey Cook attracting most of the attention from the Aztec defense, Harris seized the opportunity.
“Maybe after the second shot, we should have looked at him,” SDSU Head Coach Steve Fisher said. “Definitely after the third shot.”
Oliver was also instrumental in the Santa Barbara win. Oliver scored a career-high 17 points and tallied four assists in 41 minutes.
Considering that the momentum was on the side of San Diego State after Slaughter tied the game at the buzzer, the fact that the Gauchos kept their composure when the game was on the line is an encouraging sign for Williams. UCSB went 8-8 from the free throw stripe and turned the ball over just once on the road against a team with a respectable RPI of 117.
The Gauchos’ game Tuesday at #20 Wisconsin, the defending champions of the Big-10, will unquestionably be the Gauchos’ highest profile game of the year, and the win at San Diego State could serve as a firm building block as Santa Barbara heads to the Midwest.